The man who put the Elf among the Minis.
Profile of Archie Phillips by Richard St John Young from Motorweek dated 18 January 1969.
During the l968 racing season the name Archie Phillips became something of a household word among the followers of the sport and hardly a week went by when Archie wasn’t mentioned in the winners list.
In fact, although he first sprang to real prominence in 1967 when he entered the ultra competitive world of mini-racing, Archie has been racing for a lot longer than that.
A farmer’s son, Archie, who came originally from Draperstown, had a healthy interest in things mechanical from an early age — an interest no doubt fostered by the fact that his father, also of a mechanical turn of mind, was one of the first people in the Draperstown area to own a motor car.
After serving his time as a mechanic, Archie, began a very successful career in the motor trade, leaving farming to other members of his family, and establishing over the years a garage in Portrush among other things. He is now Managing Director of Leslie Porter Ltd., the MG and Riley distributors for Northern Ireland.
BEGAN ON BIKES
Since he started in the trade Archie has always had an interest in motor sport and has been actively competing for some years, initially on motor cycles without any spectacular success, although one gets the impression that he enjoyed himself!
In the late 50’s he turned to racing cars and for a couple of years campaigned a rapid Riley 1.5. This was followed by a variety of machinery ranging from an MG Magnette to his only single-seater racing car, an FJ Elva, about which he says, “It was a frightening machine. Under braking at Kirkistown the nose of the car would touch the ground and the thing would weave quite badly; there wasn’t much you could do with it but it had a good engine. Having driven one myself I know exactly what he means!!
Archie has never had any particular interest in going single-seater racing, preferring sports car and saloon racing. He considers single seaters to be a perhaps a little bit dangerous and maintains that if one gets too serious about racing all the enjoyment goes out of it.
First Racing 1100.
When the MGB first arrived Archie was one of the first (naturally) to race one and he has driven a succession of very quick “B’s” ever since. An unusual car which he raced during this period was the first Morris 1100 to arrive in Northern Ireland.
This was entered for a Kirkistown meeting a couple of days after the announcement of the new model and Archie is probably the first ever to have driven one in competition. In the race it proved to be “very quick round corners but not very good up the straights” hardly surprising as it was still being run in!
Half way through the 1967 season the familiar MGB was joined by a rather tatty looking maroon Riley Elf and with this car Archie surprised many people by “mixing it” with the accepted masters of Mini racing at that time.
At the start of them ’68 season Archie and the “other half” of the partnership, Maurice Elliott, Leslie Porter’s service foreman, about whom more in a moment turned up with a new MGB and another very much nicer looking Riley Elf.
From this point onwards the Leslie Porter cars swept all before them, the Elf winning a fantastic collection of silverware through the season while the “B” didn’t do too badly either although this was replaced in the front line around mid-season by a John Britten type MG Midget, which upheld the tradition in fine style with wins at Kirksitown and Mondello Park, a fine tribute to the talents of “spannerman” Maurice.
The one black meeting in Archie’s 1968 calendar was Phoenix Park when the Midget broke its gear box and the Elf entirely demolished its engine during the course of the weekend. Perhaps it was the time and money involved in getting both cars serviceable for Kirkistown the following week that prompted Archie to think again of the joys of “one car ownership” the Elf being for sale at the present moment.
Among unsung heroes Maurice Elliot must rate high for it is largely due to Maurice’s meticulous preparation and attention to detail that the white cars from York Street have achieved such remarkable success. Maurice was originally a follower of kart racing and used to assist Formula Ford man Corrado Morelli during his karting days.
When he moved up to Leslie Porter’s Maurice took to motor racing like a duck to water and his un-bounded enthusiasm for the sport has done much to uphold the morale of the “equipe.” Currently Maurice has leanings towards Autocross so don’t be surprised if a Leslie Porter entered car appears in that “field” (sorry!) before long.
For 1969 Archie will be racing the Midget only, as he feels that the work involved in preparing two cars takes a lot of the enjoyment out of racing. So if anyone wants to buy a Riley. Elf I know where there is one. “One owner, low mileage, used only at weekends…”